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Originally published Monday, August 4, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Coed baby showers: bring on the barbecue and ditch the cutesy games

Ditch the jars of mystery baby food. Pitch the sherbet- and Sprite-spiked punch. And don't even think about wrapping toilet paper around...

The Press-Register (Mobile, Ala

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Ditch the jars of mystery baby food. Pitch the sherbet- and Sprite-spiked punch. And don't even think about wrapping toilet paper around the expectant mother's belly.

At the modern baby shower, men are more than welcome. Adult beverages are often served. Tiki torches are optional.

"It's not just the little cucumber sandwiches and punch, it's a party," said Blakeley Webb, a party designer in Mobile, Ala. "And it's great because men are more involved with their children, and it all starts at the beginning. And they get to open presents, too."

Webb and her husband had a coed shower at their home for her sister, Alease Dodd, and her husband, Chris, before the couple welcomed daughter Mary Christopher last February.

"When you have a lot of the same friends it just makes sense to have one together," said Jessica Dudley, manager of Mobile's Ivy Cottage, where shoppers can find plenty of presents for babies.

After all, this domestic-bliss business typically takes two, especially with a wee one on the way. Be warned, though: This is not your mother's kind of party. She may not understand why you wouldn't want to pick safety pins out of a bowl of rice while blindfolded. On the other hand, some moms may be relieved. You can eat only so much chicken salad and sheet cake.

Here are a few guidelines for hosting a perfectly pleasant party where men and women gather to celebrate the impending arrival of a tiny person:

Rule No. 1: Don't print the word "shower" on the invitation. In fact, try not to refer to the party at any time as a shower. It's a celebration. Nothing scares guys away faster than the idea of attending a party packed full of women talking about birthing babies.

Rule No. 2: Still mindful of Rule No. 1, make the purpose clear. Guests should understand the reason for the party is to help prepare for a new baby. Pass along where the parents are registered to anyone who asks.

Rule No. 3: Keep it casual. Think barbecue and beer on the back lawn, or blue and pink cocktails on the porch. "It's all about giving [men] something to drink and having good food," Webb said.

Rule No. 4: Play games at your own risk. Does it really matter who can tell the difference between puréed peaches, carrots and banana-orange medley?

Rule No. 5: Create a signature drink, or just put out some beer, the leaded and unleaded versions. A big blob of ice cream floating in a sea of lime green punch will sink your soiree faster than you can say, "That's the cutest pink onesie ever."

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Rule No. 6: Send guests home with something sweet, salty or even lyrical. Pack small bags of cookies or chocolate-covered pretzels. Create a custom CD of songs played at the party to pass out as people leave. Or hand out cigars with personalized boxes of matches.

Rule No. 7: Chill out. There's no need to stress over trying to reinvent the baby shower. There are plenty of creative event planners and party designers out there who've done that already.

To check out more ideas for modern baby showers, visit the HWTM (hostess with the mostess) daily blog at www.hostessblog.com/category/babyshowers. HWTM features several real-life showers where men and women peacefully coexisted, and appeared to have fun, if the photos are any indication. There were even games at one tropical-themed party held at a Seattle restaurant. Play-Doh was involved.

Martha Stewart's out-of-print magazine Blueprint weighed in on the modern baby shower last year with a spread on an Asian-themed party for two expectant mothers and their husbands. Fried ice cream was served instead of cupcakes. For a variety of shower ideas, go to Stewart's Web site, www.marthastewart.com, and search for baby shower.

The editors at Real Simple magazine also offer hip and modern baby-shower themes, which include orange polka dots and yellow rubber ducks. Check them out here: simplystated.realsimple.com/celebrations/baby_showers/index.html

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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